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  • Richard

Pay as You Fetch

Updated: Mar 10, 2019

Appreciating, as always, IRC’s thoughts on watsan development (though not always agreeing of course) I was intrigued to read in their recent bulletin extracts from Caleb Cord’s ‘Analysis on IRC’s use of Pay as You Fetch, Kabarole District, Uganda’, 2018.

Aiming for sustainability of rural water supply through handpumps through consumer contributions which support private maintenance mechanics when pumps break down, I was intrigued by the statement that “In Mukumbwe there is an informal system for those who are unable to pay at the time of fetching water where they can pay the caretaker when money is again available. The community does not have many alternative ways of fetching water except the National Water and Sewerage Corporation (National Water) which has set up a kiosk nearby. However, their services are not provided 24/7 and customers have frequently complained about the water being of poor quality. It is also more expensive than at Miriam’s hand pump; people say they prefer fetching water from her.”

And that “Burungu has several bulk users, primarily brick makers, farmers, construction workers, and crop sprayers. At one point, the idea of charging bulk users a higher rate was considered but then abandoned due to competition from nearby National Water kiosks. These kiosks are more convenient than the hand pumps as they require less physical effort and time. The competition from National Water seems to be causing concern at this water point, although the magnitude of the problem is difficult to gauge.”

Which rather begs the question as to why international funding is supporting the development of improved systems for handpumps when national society has invested in networked water supply close by … which should, in the long-term, be more sustainable and of better quality?

I came across an international NGO a decade ago in India (thanks to the MSc student’s thesis research), developing better ways of supporting handpump supply. Only for the Cranfield researcher to find that the government had constructed a piped network (‘single village schemes’ from memory) for water and that the NGO system was acting as a back up for when the power and/or pumps failed temporarily. Which is helpful but ….. perhaps not the most cost-effective use of scarce financing?

I also note, from the Mukumbwe story, the price sensitivity of customers, even when it means hard pumping as compared to turning the tap. It seems to me to say that the ‘opportunity cost of labour’ (women’s labour in particular?) is still perceived to be much lower than official cost-benefit analyses might presume.

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